Today’s article focuses on a long-term chronic health illness called fibromyalgia. Many sufferers of fibromyalgia may have been misdiagnosed with a host of other conditions with similar symptoms such as anemia, arthritis, Addison’s disease, depression, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, mononucleosis, severe obesity, etc.; the list goes on.
Fibromyalgia is not classified as a disease, though it initially was at an earlier stage, but rather an illness that affects the central nervous system. As there is no specific test available to confirm fibromyalgia, coupled with the fact that its symptoms are similar to other conditions, this illness is often misdiagnosed.
In the past, fibromyalgia was even thought to be an imaginary illness, but with advancements made in science, it is better understood now, and there are options to help manage the symptoms.
Women have been more prone to getting fibromyalgia, and going through menopause normally worsens the situation. To complicate matters further, both fibromyalgia and menopause have some similar symptoms.
Men, too, have also been diagnosed with the illness in recent times. Yet, many men remain undiagnosed because fibromyalgia is seen more as a woman’s illness. Going undiagnosed is partly due to the fact that men who have pain have traditionally been told to suck it up and bear with it.
Common areas where fibromyalgia pain is felt
The main symptom for fibromyalgia is pain felt in muscles and soft tissues around the body, ranging from mild achiness to almost unbearable discomfort. The pain is not localized; it can be felt in a few areas of the body.
Here are some common areas where fibromyalgia can appear.
Fibromyalgia chest pain can be described as a burning sensation accompanied by a sharp stabbing pain which are similar to a heart attack, and there may be shortness of breath as well. The pain is caused by the cartilage connecting the ribs to the breastbone, and can even spread to the shoulders and arms.
Fibromyalgia back pain can sometimes combine with arthritis. Symptoms like brain fog and feeling excessively tired can help determine fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia leg pain is similar to soreness in the muscles and soft tissues or stiffness similar to arthritis, i.e., it can be felt deep within the muscles as a throbbing and sometimes burning sensation. In some cases, it can also be felt as a tingling sensation or numbness.
Causes and diagnosis
Till today, scientists are unsure what actually causes fibromyalgia, but the latest research studies indicate hereditary characteristics (genes) which are set off by triggers such as infection, trauma or stress, cause fibromyalgia.
Researchers also believe the pain stems from an abnormal nervous system response, i.e., the body reacts to triggers that normally don’t cause painful effects.
Previously, a person used to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia if he or she had pain in 11 out of the 18 trigger points around the body when doctors pressed firmly on these areas, with no other medical conditions to cause the pain.
In recent years, a diagnosis is confirmed if a person has pain in 4 out of 5 areas of pain defined by a 2016 revised diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia.
A doctor may want to carry out a blood test to eliminate other conditions with similar symptoms, e.g., hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Your doctor may recommend certain dietary recommendations, as certain foods may worsen fibromyalgia symptoms. Keeping a food diary to track how you feel after each meal can help you avoid certain foods that worsen fibromyalgia symptoms.
Medications such as pain relievers, antidepressants or anti-seizure drugs are often useful to reduce pain, but should only be taken after getting your doctor’s approval or prescription.
Your doctor may also recommend therapy options such as physical therapy and occupational therapy (modifications in your workplace). Alternative options include acupuncture, acupressure and massage therapy.
Apart from the above, your doctor may also advise you to make simple changes to your lifestyle that include:
- reducing stress
- getting sufficient sleep
- maintaining a healthy lifestyle
In conclusion, fibromyalgia is a long term (chronic) condition. Making certain changes in your lifestyle, together with medication and therapy may provide relief from the pain, as some people who have followed so have experienced pain-free and fatigue free periods.
This article provides some general insight on fibromyalgia, which should in no way be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor for proper medical advice and diagnosis.
20th August 19:50 2020